In 2014, Auckland’s Gus Fisher Gallery presented the exhibition History in the Taking to celebrate PhotoForum’s 40th anniversary. City Gallery is pleased to be showing the exhibition in Wellington. Featuring around 150 photographs, the show traces the development of art photography in New Zealand. All the images featured in PhotoForum publications and exhibitions, and many have become iconic. Stars like Robin Morrison, Peter Peryer, Anne Noble, Laurence Aberhart, Fiona Clark and Peter Black feature alongside equally remarkable but now-neglected figures. The show also includes publications and posters.
These days, in New Zealand, photography is accepted as an art form, but it wasn’t always the case. In 1973, John Turner and others founded PhotoForum to lead the charge. Over the years, this grass-roots organisation has promoted photography through exhibitions and publications, particularly its magazine. Within the photography community, PhotoForum was also the catalyst for debates within photography, about the virtues of different approaches and individuals. A product of the 1970s, PhotoForum saw the medium as entangled with counterculture lifestyles and protest movements. The show offers not only a history of New Zealand photography but also a slice of New Zealand social history. It is accompanied by Nina Seja’s comprehensive history PhotoForum at 40: Counterculture, Clusters, and Debate in New Zealand.
History in the Taking has been toured by PhotoForum. It was curated by Nina Seja and Geoffrey H. Short. Thanks also to the Gus Fisher Gallery, Auckland.
Auckland abstract painter Alberto Garcia-Alvarez is a little-known but influential figure in New Zealand art. Born in Spain, he moved to California in 1960 and, in 1973, to Auckland. Garcia-Alvarez works in series, exploring the possibilities of different approaches in parallel. Throughout his career, he has continued to make both gestural paintings and painted constructions. He has also experimented with lithography. He is best known for Collective Mind (1979), his ceramic mural on the facade of the Physics and Mathematics Building at the University of Auckland. Although, he has worked consistently, he has rarely exhibited.
Crossings is an ongoing series of painted wooden constructions that Garcia-Alvarez began making in Sausalito, California, in 1967. At first, the constructions were purely formal, with no intended symbolism. But later, he would occasionally admit religious and political associations. He explains: “The title Crossings refers to the intersection points of objects, or to ideas crossing each other. It also refers to the act of crossing; the crossing over an obstacle or a prejudice.” Over the years, Garcia-Alvarez has produced more than 100 of these constructions. Although they often appear modest and casually arranged and painted, the longer you look at them, the more finely calibrated and tuned they seem.
Alberto Garcia-Alvarez was born in Spain in 1928 and studied painting at the University of Barcelona. In 1960, he moved to California, where he taught at the University of California, Berkeley, and had solo shows at San José Art Centre and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In 1973, he moved to Auckland where he taught at Elam School of Fine Arts for twenty years. There, he had a huge influence on a generation of artists, including Graeme Cornwall, Stephen Bambury and Judy Millar.
Our exhibition was selected from a larger show of Garcia-Alvarez’s constructions held at Auckland’s Tim Melville Gallery in 2014.
Upstairs at City Gallery is the second presentation of photographer Jono Rotman’s Mongrel Mob portraits. Based in New York, Rotman returns regularly to New Zealand to work on this project, for which he has travelled the country over seven years to visit the homes of over 200 men.
Rotman uses traditional portrait conventions and techniques to unsettle expectations of portraiture and the standard media representation of gangs. By doing so, this work questions why we consider certain types of people suitable to hang on a gallery wall in a formal portrait. “Is it glorification because they are good photographs? Should it be that these guys should only be shown in bad photographs or in police mugshots?” Rotman’s portraits offer neither glorification nor caricature. He says, "I hope that viewers are forced to consider each man in person and consider deeply the forces that made him.”
Rotman’s portraits were first shown at Auckland’s Gow Langsford Gallery in 2014. City Gallery's exhibition expands on this selection, and includes unseen work from the original series. It also introduces new pieces which extend Rotman’s engagement with different types of portraiture through which he offers other perspectives on members of the country’s most notorious gang.
In 2013, Rotman was awarded the prestigious Marti Friedlander Award for Photography on the basis of his Mongrel Mob photographs. The Award’s namesake, renowned photographer Marti Friedlander says, “The photos of these men moved me to tears. It seems almost as if Rotman has understood something and revealed the person behind the badge without prejudice.”
Jono Rotman grew up in Ohariu Valley, Wellington. He studied printmaking in Argentina and photography in Wellington and has exhibited throughout New Zealand and Australia, including in Parallel Worlds, a joint exhibition between the Adam Art Gallery in Wellington and the Centre for Contemporary Photography in Melbourne (2001). Rotman’s work is represented in the Wellington City Council Art Collection, and the Chartwell Collection, Auckland.
Peter Roehr Film Montages
Mar 16 - Jun 27, 2015
Bridging the preoccupations of pop and minimalism, German artist Peter Roehr's film montages (all 1965) loop short excerpts of found footage
Bridging the preoccupations of pop and minimalism, German artist Peter Roehr's film montages (all 1965) loop short excerpts of found footage: shampoo commercials, wrestlers, cars on highways, petrol-station signs. Roehr wrote: “I change material by repeating it unchanged. The message is the behaviour of the material in response to the frequency of its repetition”.
Roehr died in 1968, aged just 23. During his tragically brief career, he produced a remarkable body of works employing appropriation and repetition. Holger Liebs says, “His contemporaries did not immediately recognise the quality of Roehr's work. Roehr's series, with their dogged, tautological order, were in many ways so much in step with the trends of their times—among them the aesthetics of information theory, structuralism and minimal art—that their peculiarity long remained overlooked”.
On the one hand, Roehr's films are frustrating, suggesting that time is either attenuated or stuck; on the other hand, they foreground the pleasure of sheer repetition. Roehr's generic, anonymous clips take on a new affective scale; the contingent and banal becoming definitive and monumental, even mythic.
The Peter Roehr Estate is represented by Mehdi Chouakri, Berlin.
Screening in the Adam Auditorium. Total screening time: 24min. Hearing loop available—please ask staff for assistance.
Mar 28 - Jul 26, 2015
Candice Breitz’s compelling video installations explore media stereotypes to address the way identities are created and performed.
Candice Breitz’s compelling video installations explore media stereotypes to address the way identities are created and performed. The three major works we are showing each present distinct aspects of her work.
Breitz's latest trilogy, The Woods (2012), comes in three parts, each referring to one of the world’s largest film industries: Hollywood (USA), Bollywood (India) and Nollywood (Nigeria). Breitz says, “Each of these cinematic giants maintains its hold on the mainstream by selling us fairly digestible stories that are designed to appease us, to offer us visions of lives that are better, braver, happier, thinner—and, importantly, to keep us coming back for more.” Breitz interviews Hollywood and Bollywood child actors and Nollywood adult actors who play children. In the work, the child actors play adults, while the adult actors are finally presented as the adults they are. Breitz says, “Children are always understudies in a sense, observing and aping adults—and the culture of adults—to model themselves into social beings.”
The spectacular sixteen-channel work King (A Portrait of Michael Jackson) (2005) presents sixteen Michael Jackson fans performing the entire Thriller album. Breitz chose her subjects from hundreds who responded to advertisements she placed on fan websites and magazines. They were selected for the strength of their obsession with Jackson rather than for their resemblance to him or for their talent. Each was recorded separately and was free to dress, sing and dance as they pleased. Breitz presents the sixteen videos in sync, creating a collective choral cover version. She has produced similar works based on Madonna, Queen (A Portrait of Madonna), 2005, Bob Marley, Legend (A Portrait of Bob Marley), 2005, and John Lennon, Working Class Hero (A Portrait of John Lennon), 2006. These works attest to the ways fans sample and remix superstar personas in their quest for their own self expression.
In Factum (2010), Breitz interviews identical twins and a set of triplets, playing on similarities and differences in what they say and how they say it.
Breitz was born in Johannesburg in 1972 and lives in Berlin. She has been Professor of Fine Art at Braunschweig University of Art since 2007. Breitz has been included in biennials in Sao Paulo, Istanbul, Johannesburg, Gwangju, Taipei and Venice. She is represented by White Cube in London, Kaufmann Repetto in Milan and Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg and Cape Town. The Woods was commissioned by Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, and Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne. King has been lent by Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane.